Update 3/3/2022: The event has concluded, and the full recording is available on our YouTube channel.
In honor of Black History Month, we’re hosting a Twitter Space on The Future of Voting Reform for Black Voters. We’re excited for a great conversation with guests Jessica Pierce, co-founder of Piece by Piece Strategies; Stefanie Brown James of The Collective PAC; advocate and activist Markus Batchelor; Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond; and FairVote’s own Khalid Pitts.
You can read more about each of the panelists below.
Co-founder of Piece by Piece Strategies
Jessica is a national leader in racial justice and movement building, holding expertise in youth engagement, organizational development, and training. Jessica’s passion for organizing started at UC Santa Cruz where she was elected as Student Union Assembly President for two terms. After graduating, Jessica served as the Organizing Director for the United States Student Association (USSA) where she led campaigns in over 15 states. During her tenure USSA led efforts to pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act – the largest increase to grant aid since the passing of the G.I. bill in 1944. With leaders of the Generational Alliance (GA), Jessica led efforts to develop Generation Vote, a coalition of 20 organizations invested in building a youth voting bloc that generated over 1 million youth contacts. Jessica then served as the National Training Director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where she helped to coordinate national election efforts for the 2012 election to turnout over 1.2 million Black voters and build uniform capacity & training programs for the national, state, and local levels.
Seven years ago, as the world was watching and waiting for the verdict in the murder case of Trayvon Martin, Jessica with other organizers from across the country co-founded Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) where she later became the first National Chair, and focused on capacity-building and sustainability efforts for the organization and other organizations that make up the Movement for Black Lives. She later became the Director of Special Projects for Movement Voter Project where she met her business partner that led to the founding of the company and non-profit—Piece by Piece Strategies. Outside of organizing, Jessica has committed herself to building power through accountable movement-building, working with organizations such as Revolve Impact, Community Justice Reform Coalition, Midwest Academy, and the Center for American Progress.
Jessica has been featured in national, state, and local media outlets including Ebony, PBS Newshour, BET, CNN, and Buzzfeed and has won numerous awards including the 21st Century Innovator Award from the Midwest Academy. Throughout her career and to-date, she has personally organized and trained more than 25,000 people.
Stefanie Brown James
Co-Founder and Senior Advisor of The Collective PAC
An experienced social entrepreneur and civic engagement strategist, Stefanie Brown James is the Co-Founder and Senior Advisor of The Collective – a network of five affiliated organizations including The Collective PAC, The Collective Super PAC, Southern Strategies Super PAC, Collective Future and The Collective Education Fund – dedicated to supporting and funding Black candidates to win elections on the local, state and federal levels and the engagement of Black voters in the political process. The Collective is strategically focused on creating an equitable democracy where Black people are fully represented in positions of power to create the policies necessary to progress our communities forward.
Founded in August of 2016, The Collective has raised over $40 million to advance their mission, helped 300 Black leaders win elected office and in 2020, organized one of the largest Black voter engagement campaigns in the country -- registering over 114k voters, garnering 29 million digital impressions on voter education messaging and providing 100k free rides to the polls.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Stefanie previously worked at EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, where she served as the organization’s Vice President of Training and Community Engagement.
In 2012, Stefanie served as the National African American Vote Director for the Obama for America Campaign and created the national strategy to engage Black leaders and voters to re-elect President Barack Obama, helping to garner the highest Black voter turnout in history. Formerly the National Field Director and Youth & College Division Director for the NAACP, Stefanie developed and administered the national field organizing strategy for the NAACP’s 2,200+ units.
Stefanie currently serves as Co-Chair of the National Social Action Commission for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and is a former member of the Board of Trustees at her alma mater, Howard University. Stefanie’s greatest accomplishment, however, is marrying her business partner Quentin James and being the mother of two amazing boys, Carter & Elijah.
Executive Vice President of Policy and Programs at FairVote
Khalid Pitts is a seasoned political and public relations strategist with over two decades of experience directing national political and legislative campaigns, non-profit executive management, and leading national advocacy programs. Pitts’ background includes senior level positions at the Sierra Club (national political director); the Service Employees International Union (director of strategic campaigns), USAction (president and board chair) and the consulting firm Democracy Partners (principal).
He’s built a reputation as a skilled tactician and organizational leader who understands the nuts and bolts of creating winning campaigns. As co-founder and executive board co-chair for Health Care for America Now (HCAN), he helped build a coalition of over 1,000 organizations representing 30 million people. His involvement with healthcare continues, serving on the executive board as secretary-treasurer of Washington, DC’s Health Benefit Exchange. He advised the Obama White House on issues around gun violence and health care, and raised tens of millions of dollars in political and private equity funds.
People for the American Way
Markus Batchelor is a native Washingtonian, advocate and activist who has spent his career in government, non-profit and as an elected leader working to close deep divides and advocate for our most vulnerable neighbors and disinvested communities.
Markus served as the Ward 8 Representative and Vice President of the State Board of Education from 2017 through 2021. He is the youngest-ever elected member of the board, where he represented over 16,000 K-12 students across 41 school communities after being elected in 2016 at age 23. Representing one of DC’s most historically under-served communities, he led on efforts focused on equity and closing the opportunity gap. He also served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, where he represented residents in the Congress Heights and Washington Highlands communities. In 2020, he was a candidate for At-Large member of the Council of the District of Columbia.
Markus is an alumnus and former trainer at the Marion Barry Youth Leadership Institute (MBYLI), where he worked with DC teens on personal development, civic engagement, college readiness, and employ-ability skills. He has also served as a Ward 8 Liaison in the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services and on the staff of the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, a community-based non-profit dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect in Ward 8.
Markus currently works at People for the American Way’s Young Elected Officials Network, where he helps to support over 1300 elected progressive leaders from across the country at all levels of government. He also served as the President of the Ward 8 Democrats and sat on DC’s Democratic State Committee as National Committeeman for the DC Young Democrats. He's been a consistent champion for progressive causes such as One Fair Wage, paid family leave, criminal justice reform, and getting big money out of politics.
Markus has been honored as Washington City Paper's Best of DC (2017), WPGC 95.5 Top 30 Under 30 (2017), and Afro Newspaper's Activists Under 35 (2020).
Alexi McCammond is a political reporter at Axios. She covers the 2022 midterm elections and the progressive movement.